Ex-Reuters Man, Matthew Keys Found Guilty Of Aiding ‘Anonymous’ In News Hack

Matthew Keys, an ex-Reuters employee was found guilty today of assisting members of hacktivist collective, Anonymous so that they could hack into Los Angeles Times and Tribune Co. servers.

Keys, 28, who works as a managing editor for Grasswire, a news curation website, said he will continue to report until his sentencing.

Keys, who also was a web producer for KTXL Fox 40 in Sacramento, owned by the Tribune Company, provided members of the hacker group Anonymous with login information for Tribune servers in 2010.

“In 2010, Keys posted login credentials to the Tribune Company content management system (CMS) to a chatroom run by Anonymous, resulting in the defacement of an LA Times article online. The defacement was reversed in 40 minutes, but the government argued the attack caused nearly a million dollars in damage,” Sarah Jeong reported for Vice-owned news site Motherboard.

Back in 2011, Sabu, the then leader of the LulzSec group, said on Twitter :

https://twitter.com/hxmonsegur/status/50036860407386112

AESCracked was presumably the name utilized by Keys online when chatting with the hacktivists. It’s worth noting that Monsegur has been working with US law enforcement for more than two years now.

The Associated Press reported: “Court documents say the hacking cost Tribune nearly $18,000 for the 333 hours that employees spent responding to the hack. But Keys’ attorneys said restoring the original headline, byline and first paragraphs of the story took less than an hour and the cost falls below the $5,000 loss required to make the violation a felony.”

Keys was fired as deputy social media editor for Reuters back in 2013 for allegedly providing a username and password to members of Anonymous to gain access to the server of his former employer, the Tribune Company. He reportedly stimulated the hackers to use the credentials to “go fuck some shit up.” As a result, someone used the credentials to hack into the website of the Los Angeles Times, which is owned by the Tribune Company, and change the headline of a story about tax cuts to read: “Pressure builds in House to elect CHIPPY 1337.”

Keys was indicted in the Eastern District of California with three counts, which were “one count of conspiracy to make unauthorized changes to the Tribune Company’s websites, and damage its computer systems; one count of transmitting malicious code; and one count of attempted transmission of malicious code,” the DOJ said.

Talking about the verdict, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner in a press statement said, “Although this case has drawn attention because of Matthew Keys’ employment in the news media, this was simply a case about a disgruntled employee who used his technical skills to taunt and torment his former employer. Although he did no lasting damage, Keys did interfere with the business of news organizations, and caused the Tribune Company to spend thousands of dollars protecting its servers. Those who use the Internet to carry out personal vendettas against former employers should know that there are consequences for such conduct.”

Gary Weitman, spokesperson for Tribune Media Company said to Reuters: “We are pleased that the justice system worked. We will let today’s verdict speak for itself.”

Though Keys faces up to 25 years in prison at his sentencing, U.S. attorney’s office spokeswoman Lauren Horwood said prosecutors are “likely” to seek less than five years.

Keys’ attorney, Jay Leiderman, said they will appeal after Keys’ sentencing, which is scheduled for January 20 in Sacramento.

Anonymous has come out in support of Matthew Keys.  They questioned the logic of the US government of slapping felony charges against Keys for a minor defacement.

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